Dear campus community members and friends of the University of Arizona,
Last week I shared a statement regarding concerns and questions over a number of alarming racist social media posts from current and incoming University of Arizona students. My message to the campus community and beyond elicited a number of welcome responses. Many eloquently made the point that it seems very unfair that those whom anti-Black racists would choose to oppress, or do active harm to, should need to share the campus with those who use hate speech, and thus potentially be made to feel anxious or afraid while they seek their own education.
Painfully, as a society we don’t have a solution to that inequity, in the case of anti-Black racists any more than we do for other known oppressive individuals and groups that exist in our communities, including on our campuses.
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Our challenge at the University of Arizona is to build real strength into the educational process, into our student support structures, into our reporting processes, and into our disciplinary processes, to provide real protections for our BIPOC students, to bolster the strength that comes when we witness that our community will not tolerate anti-Black racism. On this front, we have much work still to do, and I look to our students, staff and faculty to actively inform that process and to guide our path forward. I have optimism that we can work together to find ways to channel our anger into building better systems that serve to reduce racism at the University of Arizona and across US society.
Seizing this moment in history, our faculty, staff and students are already strengthening our efforts in action-oriented ways, including voter registration and education, campus gatherings to discuss controversial issues, protocols that increase a robust pool of candidates and hiring of diverse faculty and staff, utilizing our existing data and shared experiences to inform proactive change regarding the student experience, and intentional consultation with the Shared Governance organizations that are committed to the success and transformation of the University that reflects our core values, our Land Grant charge, our Hispanic Serving Institution designation and service to the State of Arizona.
We owe it to our local and regional community, and to our nation, to seize this historic moment to be better and to serve our students better. Change is hard – always – but now is the moment.
Bear down, Wildcats.
Message from Provost Liesl Folks June 16, 2023
Dear campus community members and friends of the University of Arizona,
Many of you have taken time to write to share your concerns and questions over a number of alarmingly racist social media posts which appear to have originated with current or incoming University of Arizona students, in response to the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent nationwide protests against systemic and institutional violence against and marginalization of the Black community. Other recent posts have documented anti-Black racism by recent graduates of UArizona. I very much understand your concerns, and your suggestions that the University act in response.
We are taking all actions that are available to us to respond swiftly with the students implicated in these cases of anti-Black racism coming up in social media, while adhering to the federal and state laws (including free speech laws) that we must comply with, especially as a state institution.
But the harder question we all face is how to change the hearts and minds of people who have been conditioned into anti-Black racism and anti-Black violence? If they don’t go to college, and are not exposed to views from outside their family and insular communities, there is a much lowered chance that these damaging and dangerous views can be changed. In particular, it is unlikely that an understanding of the systemic and institutional supports of racism will be developed. Unchanged, racism will continue to be communicated from generation to generation, perpetuating the harm. The very experience of shared learning within our nation’s universities is a powerful way to dismantle ignorance, increase compassion, and reduce cruelty towards others who are different from us. For this reason, I believe we must continue to operate a “big-tent” institution, allowing all students a chance to learn and mature, to grow their intellectual abilities, to develop a working knowledge of history, of cultures and of the workings of democracy, with the words from the preamble to the Constitution as a lodestar, to “form a more perfect Union … insure domestic Tranquility … (and) promote the general Welfare.”
That said, I very much understand the point that many have made very eloquently that it seems very unfair that those whom anti-Black racists would choose to oppress, or do active harm to need to, should be involved in this process, and potentially be made to feel anxious or afraid while they seek their own education. Painfully, as a society we don’t have a solution to that inequity, any more than we do for other known oppressive groups that exist in our communities, including on our campuses.
Our challenge, then, is to build real strength into the educational process, into our student support structures, into our reporting processes, and into our disciplinary processes, to provide real protections for our BIPOC students, to bolster the strength that comes when we witness that our community will not tolerate anti-Black racism. On this front, we have much work still to do, and I look to our students, staff and faculty to actively inform that process and to guide our path forward. We have to work together to find ways to channel our anger into building better systems that serve to reduce racism at UA and across US society.
I believe it remains an imperative to educate the individuals who will build the systems and institutions that uphold society and the Constitution, with the express aspiration that they will find the wisdom to become part of the solution to institutional and systemic impediments facing our Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. Integrity. Compassion. Exploration. Adaptation. Inclusivity. Determination. We live these values every day and we continue to work with the students who want to participate in our educational community to help them to learn and grow responsibly in our special Wildcat way.
I do not agree. I do not excuse. I do not condone. But I do defend the right for all students to seek an education that might help them become better humans and to fulfill their human capacity for doing good in the world.
The Office of the Provost oversees all academic programs and units and supports the academic mission of the University by ensuring the quality of academic programs, providing support activities that enhance teaching and learning, making services available that enable faculty and student involvement in education, research, and creative expression, and supporting research excellence with a focus on the land-grant mission.
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